Lesotho–South Africa relations

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Lesotho-South Africa relations
Map indicating locations of Lesotho and South Africa


South Africa

Lesotho – South Africa relations refers to the current and historical bilateral relations of South Africa and Lesotho. Lesotho, which is completely surrounded by South Africa, depends on South Africa for most of its economic affairs. Both are member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Southern African Customs Union and the Southern African Development Community.


The area known as Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho (then Basutoland, a British protectorate) was annexed to the Cape Colony in 1871, but became separate again (as a crown colony) in 1884. When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, there were moves by Britain to include Lesotho. The South African government pressed Britain for incorporation of the area into its territory.[citation needed] However, in October 1966, the Kingdom gained full independence. Despite formal independence, the white-controlled government in South Africa played a major role in its neighbour's economic and political affairs, including supporting the government of Lesotho Prime Minister Chief Leabua Jonathan. In 1986, South Africa supported the coup d'état in Lesotho which brought Justin Lekhanya to power. In turn, Lekhanya's government expelled African National Congress members as well as technicians from North Korea, which led to significantly better relations between the two countries.[1]

In September 1998, South Africa led a military intervention in Lesotho in the name of SADC, after post-election rioting and rumours of a possible coup. SADC troops withdrew from Lesotho in May of the following year.

Post-apartheid relations[edit]

South Africa held its first democratic elections in 1994. Since then, South Africa's influence in Lesotho has grown. It is involved with the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, an ongoing water supply and hydro-power project. In August 2010, South African President Jacob Zuma led a group of investors and politicians to Lesotho, where they discussed bilateral cooperation as well as regional political developments.[2] While in Lesotho in 2010, Zuma visited the Katse Dam and addressed a joint session of the Parliament of Lesotho.


  1. ^ South African Country Study Lesotho relations
  2. ^ Zuma to lead delegation to Lesotho SouthAfrica.info, 10 August 2010